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22/1/03... intensity: role of logging old, closed canopy forest over past 50 years

Media release 22nd January 2003

Fire intensity in forest: The role of logging old, closed canopy forest over the last 50 years.

Mr Tom McLoughlin, policy officer with Ecology Action Sydney gave evidence to the 1994 coronial inquiry into the 1994 fires. Mr McLoughlin said today:

'This is a time for the Australian community to pull together. Conservationists are fighting fires in their local area with the rest of the community just as they did in 1994 and more recently.

'There will be political and legal review of property damage and tragic loss of life at the city/bush interface.

'In 1994 the coroner identified climate namely low humidity, wind, temperature as critical and this has been identified again. This and other factors were again analysed as per the Fire and Biodiversity Conference Proceedings 1994.

'I submit the role of forest humidity needs more understanding. Prolonged hot weather is not the only factor. Scientists have shown for instance that old growth forest is naturally a high water storage and water yielding complex like a sponge - see study Tantawangalo Research Catchments, Change in Water Yield after Logging, by E. Wronski, Forestry Commission of NSW, 1/7/93.

'But this high humidity complex is destroyed by high intensity logging disrupting the closed canopy. A mass of tinder dry fuel results as the forest dries out. An excellent diagram illustrating this conversion effect with scientific referencing can be found in 'Old Growth Forests and their High Conservation Value' by Taylor, Woof, Thomson 1995 (available on request).

Regretably, vast areas of our forest estate have been damaged this way with old growth targetted first by the woodchippers for their high volumes. Tragically society is reaping a fire harvest from that reckless forest industry approach over 40 or 50 years.

Loggers also routinely use regeneration burns. Several years ago an eye witness reported a forest hillside erupting in flame from a smouldering regeneration burn in the upper Deua on the south coast. This kind of accidental ignition and the affect of logging on local water cycling needs further investigation by the authorities' concluded Mr McLoughlin.

More: Tom McLoughlin 0410 558838, 02-......
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